In light of the recent extreme winter weather throughout North America, this seems like a great time to discuss jump starting, as it is a task that many vehicle owners have had to perform over the last several weeks.

There are really three choices when it comes to jump starting: jumper cables (and a host vehicle), a battery charger with boost mode, or a jump starter. Each of these choices tackles the task differently, and each has different benefits and limitations that should be considered prior to making a purchase.

Jumper Cables

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Typically, a low cost solution.

Requires little storage space.

Requires no maintenance prior to use. [/sws_ui_toggle]

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Requires access to a host vehicle.

Potential harm to host vehicle.

Power is limited to what host vehicle can provide. [/sws_ui_toggle]

Even today, jumper cables are a very popular option. They are typically inexpensive and take up very little space when stored in a vehicle. Plus, almost everyone first learned to perform this task using jumper cables, so there is a comfort level in continuing to do so.

But, jumper cables represent what is probably the most complicated option for this task, as you have two sets of vehicle connections to make. The biggest drawback, though, is the need for a host vehicle. More than an inconvenience, this is not always possible and can render your jumper cables useless. Also, it is often difficult or impossible to position the host vehicle in such a way as to make your jumper cable connection. Finally, using jumper cables for boosting puts a great deal of strain on the host vehicle and, in the most extreme cases, can cause damage to it.

Battery Charger with Boost Mode

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A multi-purpose product that offers more than just jump starting capability. [/sws_ui_toggle]

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Requires access to AC power when jump starting.

Oftentimes, limited boosting capability. [/sws_ui_toggle]

Using a battery charger with boost mode to jump start a disabled vehicle can be a popular option. It is attractive because the product can be used for multiple tasks, such as battery charging, battery maintaining and for jump starting. Also, since it doesn’t have a battery inside, the charger requires no maintenance, such as periodic recharging, which is required for jump starters.

Like jumper cables, battery chargers have limitations when it comes to jump starting. The largest of these is that access to AC power is needed. If you need to jump your car when it is in your garage, you’re great. But, if you are in the middle of a mall parking lot, this is a problem. Also, many small, portable battery chargers have limited boosting power, typically in the 50-75 amp range, which may not be sufficient to solve your problem.

If you do choose to use a battery charger with boost mode to jump start a vehicle, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you use an extension cord to connect the charger to an AC outlet, make sure that it is properly rated for the task at hand. The longer the extension cord, the higher its rating needs to be to ensure you have enough power at the charger. Second, charge the battery for 5-15 minutes at the highest rate applicable for that size battery. It will make the vehicle much more receptive to the jump starting process and greatly increase your odds of success.

Jump Starter

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Special purpose product designed specifically to address this task.

No host vehicle or AC power needed to perform the task.

Ability to choose a jump starter to meet your specific starting needs. [/sws_ui_toggle]

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Requires ongoing maintenance (charging) to be ready when needed.

Can be bulky to store.

Can be expensive, based on the capabilities chosen. [/sws_ui_toggle]

Portable jump starters have been around for almost 20 years and represent the best all-around option for performing this task. They free you from dependence on a host vehicle or the need to have access to AC power. They are purpose built specifically for vehicle jump starting, and since they are available in many sizes, configurations and power capacities, you can choose a model that specifically meets your needs.

Jump starters do require ongoing maintenance. You will want to charge your jump starter periodically to ensure that it is ready for service when needed. In addition, you will want to store it, when possible, at room temperature to get the best results. If the jump starter is stored at low temperatures, it is best to increase your charging frequency.